It feels like long lost movies and TV shows are turning up all of the
time now. A longer version of Fritz Lang's Metropolis was unearthed a few
years ago, there was a cache of lost silent films that turned up in New
Zealand not too long ago, and several lost chapters of Doctor Who serials were discovered
in Nigeria recently. All six previously lost installments of The Enemy of the World were
recovered along with five of the six episodes of The Web of Fear (chapter three is
still missing). After announcing the discovery last October (and making
them available via iTunes), the BBC has put them out on DVD in Region
1. (The Enemy of the World will
be released in May of 2014). Of course the big question for fans is if
this story is actually good, or if it's a case of fans yearning for it
simply because it didn't exist. Luckily, the former is the case. The
story turns out to be an atmospheric and moody adventure that works
After a brief resolution to the cliffhanger that ended the previous
story The Enemy of the World (it
would have made more sense to release that newly discovered story
first, but I'll take what I can get) Jamie (Frazer Hines), Victoria
(Deborah Watling), and The Doctor (Patrick Troughton) become trapped in
the TARDIS. Someone or something covered the time machine in a strange
web-like substance that freezes it in space. Eventually the time
machine is taken by the unknown force to Earth, but thanks to a device
The Doctor is able to fashion, the travelers are able to make a small
leap of about a half mile and throw their would-be captor off the mark.
They find themselves is the London Underground that's oddly empty.
There are not trains or passengers and all of the tube stations are
locked. The only people they see are members of the military, who seem
to be set on blowing up parts of the Tube. It's soon revealed that
London is under attack by the Yeti, robot invaders that The Doctor
defeated twenty years and three stories ago in The Abominable Snowmen.
Not only are the Yeti back, but so is Professor Travers (Jack Watling,
Deborah's real-life father) who aided The Doctor and his two companions
in their first encounter with the monsters. This time they are all
trapped in the London Underground, encircled by the robotic Yeti and
cut off from supplies and support. To make matters worse, it looks like
there is a traitor among the group of military personnel and scientists
holed up in a since makeshift HQ... who could it be? The slimy
reporter? The scared driver? Or maybe the newly arrived officer,
Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart (Nicholas Courtney)?
This was a surprisingly good story. The trapped-and-under-siege
adventures generally aren't my favorites since they tend to follow the
same basic pattern. While this tale doesn't stray far from the standard
plot, the excellent acting, surprisingly detailed characterization, and
eerie, claustrophobic setting work well and set it apart from similar
The characters go a long way towards making this a really memorable
adventure. Two stories ago The Doctor faced a similar predicament in The Ice Warriors, which was a
decent tale but the characters were largely bland and two-dimensional.
That's not the case this time, where several of the cast are given more
complex characters. The grizzled sergeant comes across as a real person
rather than a walking cliché due to the refined performance of the
actor and the same goes for the scared driver who would rather go AWOL
than die defending his comrades. The best character is easily
Lethbridge-Stewart who plays is both a by-the-book military man and a
pragmatic realist who is willing to accept the unbelievable when it's
the most reasonable solution to a problem. All of the traits that 'the
Brig' exhibited that made him such an well-loved supporting character
in Pertwee and Tom Baker's day are evident in this, his first
This story also shows how much chemistry Pat Troughton and Frazer Hines
had on camera. They play off each other wonderfully and the show is
always interesting when they're both on screen.
Another thing that works well is the underground setting. The tube
tunnels are dark and dingy, making the wandering Yeti appear all the
more sinister, and give the show a very claustrophobic feeling.
The story has a lot of action sprinkled throughout, but it really goes
into high gear with episode four. In this chapter Lethbridge-Stewart
and the men under his command make a desperate attempt to find the
TARDIS and are attacked by Yeti wherever they go. The fight scenes were
well done (for 1960's era Doctor Who) and it was surprising to see how
dangerous the monsters were, and how fast the death toll rose.
That's not to say the story is without flaws. There are a couple of
problems. The story gets muddled in places, especially at the end. One
of the big plots involved discovering who was giving information to the
enemy, and at the end I still wasn't sure who the culprit was. The
story does drag a bit in episode three, but that could be because that
still-missing episode is constructed from the existing audio and still
images. These are minor points, and the strong cast and exciting story
more than make up for these minor flaws.
The original mono soundtrack has been restored and the story sounds
great. The dialog is clean and the background music comes through
clearly. There's nothing to complain about here.
I was a little worried about the video quality before I screened the
DVD. After all, these episodes had been sitting on a shelf in Nigeria
for the past 40 some odd years. How did they hold up over the years?
Quite well actually. The Restoration team worked their magic and the
result is simply beautiful. The contrast is excellent, the black levels
nice, and the amount of detail is superb. There are a couple of
sections that are a bit soft, but only a couple. Aside from that these
episodes look marvelous.
The third episode is still missing, though the audio still survives.
The missing chapter was recreated by matching the audio with surviving
still images (promotional stills and telesnaps) and a few descriptive
subtitles. The telesnaps, basically pictures taken of a monitor, are a
bit fuzzy and don't have the detail or clarity of the other stills, but
the reconstruction gets the job done. It fills in the action nicely.
Unfortunately there are no extras save a trailer for Enemy of The Word. I would have really
enjoyed a trivia track (I really enjoy those) but I really can't
complain. I never thought I'd be able to see this story so a lack of
extras is a small matter.
Thank God that four of the five missing episodes to this story were
discovered last year. Web of Fear
turns out to be an excellent adventure that is sure to please fans of
classic Who. Not only is it a great story, but this also marks the
first appearance of Col. Lethbridge-Stewart who would go on to play an
important role in the show just a few years later. Even though it's a
bare-bones release, it is a must-buy. Highly